ORLANDO, Fla. – Former Palomar Junior College head coach Mark Eldridge, Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso and North Carolina head coach Donna Papa joined one of softball’s most elite fraternities on Friday evening at the 2012 NFCA National Convention in Orlando, Fla., with their induction into the NFCA Hall of Fame.
The trio’s induction, rewarding each of them for legendary careers shaping and molding student-athletes into successful people both on and off the field of play, raised the all-time total of NFCA Hall of Famers to 58. With each inductee having surpassed the prestigious 1,000-victory plateau, the group has combined to win over 3,100 games, possesses a national title (Gasso at Oklahoma) and has totaled 42 regular season or league tournament championships and 81 All-American honorees.
A legend in the Cal JC ranks, Eldridge ended a stellar career at Palomar College in 2010, completing his 32-year tenure with a record of 1083-304-6. Under his guidance, Eldridge led the Comets to 27 conference titles and three state titles, produced 29 All-Americans and was named the California Coach of the Year on six occasions.
Eldridge is the first Hall of Fame inductee from a Cal JC school and the third junior college coach overall. Over the span of his career, he helped over 150 of his players move on to play at a four-year institution. Also a highly successful women’s golf coach, in 2008 he was named as the Pacific Coast Conference Women’s Coach of the Year for all sports.
In 18 seasons as the head coach of Oklahoma, Gasso has built the Sooners into a national powerhouse and placed herself among the elite coaches in collegiate softball. OU has made 18 NCAA regional appearances and seven trips to the Women’s College World Series, winning the national title in Gasso’s first appearance in 2000 and finishing second overall in 2012. With over 1,000 career wins combining both her efforts at Oklahoma and Long Beach City College, Gasso has also won five Big XII regular season-titles and four conference tournament championships.
During her tenure with the Sooners, Gasso has produced 41 All-Americans, 88 All-Region selections and 118 All-Conference honorees. In addition to the awards for her team, Gasso herself has been the recipient of numerous accolades. She is a five-time Big XII Coach of the Year, a six-time NFCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honoree, a member of the 2000 NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year and an inductee into the Long Beach City College Hall of Champions.
With over 1,000 career victories at North Carolina, Papa has created a winning culture in Chapel Hill that is rivaled by few. Under her tutelage, since joining the program as its head coach prior to the 1986 campaign, the Tar Heels have had 24 winning seasons, including the last 14 in a row, and have been to the NCAA tournament in 10 of the past 12 years.
With Papa at the helm, Carolina has won five regular-season ACC titles and one conference tournament crown while becoming a perennial top 25 program. While she has guided her team to success as a group, she has also helped numerous players achieve individual success including 11 All-Americans and 59 All-Region honorees. No stranger to accolades herself, Papa was named as the ACC Coach of the Year in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2008 and 2012.
After the banquet, NFCA First Vice President and chairperson of the Hall of Fame committee Kathryn Gleason stepped to the podium to name the four members of 2013 NFCA Hall of Fame class. California University Pennsylvania head coach Rick Bertagnolli, Florida Atlantic head coach Joan Joyce, Minnesota State-Mankato head coach Lori Meyer and University of Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy will join 58 other members next year when they are inducted into NFCA Hall of Fame at the 2013 NFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
In 19 seasons as the head coach of California University Pennsylvania softball, Bertagnolli has guided the Vulcans to 667 victories and personally owns 929 total wins during a 28-year coaching career that also included stops at Wabash Valley Junior College and South Carolina-Spartanburg.
A two-time NFCA National Coach of the Year (1997, 1998), a four-time NFCA Regional Coach of the Year (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998) and an 11-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West Coach of the Year, Bertagnolli has led Cal U to a pair of national titles (1997, 1998) and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, while his Vulcan teams have appeared in the PSAC Championship Game 12 times and set a NCAA record with 88-consecutive conference wins from 1994-99.
Under his guidance numerous Vulcan players have also garnered national, regional and conference recognition. He has coached 29 NFCA All-Americans, 75 NFCA all-region honorees and over 100 all-conference players.
For the past 28 years and 1,507 total games, Meyer has been the driving force behind the Minnesota State-Mankato softball program. A 927-game winner, she has coached 18 All-Americans, 71 all-conference (North Central Conference & Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) performers and 99 academic all-conference recipients. She and her staff were also honored as the 2011 NFCA Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
During her career Minnesota State has secured three NCC titles (1987, 1989, 2007) and one NSIC title (2012), made ten trips to the NCAA Division II National Tournament (1987, 1989, 1995, 1997, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and a pair of trips to the NCAA Championships (1987 and 2011).
As the only head coach Florida Atlantic has ever known in its 18-season history, Joyce has directed the Owls program to over 700 total victories, eight-consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference Championships (1997-2004) -- nine in all (2006) -- and seven NCAA Tournament appearances (1999-2004, 2006). In FAU's initial season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, the Owls were also crowned regular season and conference tournament champions.
The five-time A-Sun Coach of the Year and 2007 Sun Belt Coach of the Year has also lent her talents as the head coach of the FAU women’s golf squad since 1996.
A member of the National Amateur Softball Hall of Fame and a multi-sport athlete who played softball, basketball, volleyball and was also a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) for 19 years, Joyce has already been inducted into nine halls of fame. Her enshrinements include the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame, Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the Hank O'Donnell Hall of Fame, the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame, the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame, the National Amateur Softball Hall of Fame, the Greater Waterbury Hall of Fame, and is one of only three Americans who have been inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame. In 1976 she was also a runner-up for the Women's Sports Magazine Athlete of the Year.
She holds a career pitching record of 753 wins and 42 losses. Included in those totals are 150 no-hit, no-run games and 50 perfect efforts. At the plate she posted a career batting average of .324 and counts striking out Ted Williams in 1961 as one of her most notable achievements.
For a school widely known for its high-profile coaches, Murphy has built a powerhouse program at Alabama that befits an athletic department known for major success over numerous sports. A 772-game winner during a 15-year softball coaching career, he recently reached the top of the mountain by guiding his Crimson Tide to the 2012 Division I National Championship. The national title marked the first for any Southeastern Conference program and only the second all-time for a school East of the Mississippi River (Michigan – 2005). For his efforts he and his staff were named the 2012 NFCA Division I National Coaching Staff of the Year.
His teams have now made eight Women’s College World Series appearances, won four regular-season SEC crowns and four SEC Tournament titles, reached the NCAA Tournament for 14 consecutive seasons and totaled 10 campaigns with 50-plus wins.
From an individual standpoint, Murphy has tutored players who have reaped 74 total All-American honors, while having 78 players receive All-SEC accolades and 69 individuals garner NFCA All-Region honors. His teams have been just as successful in the classroom, with 12 Academic All-Americans and 152 All-SEC Academic selections to his credit.